Work begins on Western Isles' first mosque


The first mosque to be built in the Western Isles is beginning to take shape.

A semi-derelict store building in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis is being converted into the place of worship.

Aihsham Rashid, a mosque builder from Leeds, is leading the construction project.

Once open, the building will offer the isles' Muslim community of more than 50 people a place for daily prayers and for holding festivals and funerals.

At the moment, Muslim families worship in their own homes.

image captionAihsham Rashid, from Leeds, is leading the construction work

Earlier this month, a fundraising campaign to open the mosque exceeded its target figure of £50,000.

Mr Rashid, who was asked by a friend to help build the mosque, told BBC Scotland it was "go, go, go" with the construction element of the project.

He said: "Once we get this done the community will have somewhere men, woman and children can pray five times a day, to have a funeral, and for children to come to and relax.

"It will be like a little centre for all of them."

image captionBusinessman Abdul Ghaffar says there is a definite need for the mosque from the isles' Muslim community

There has been a Muslim community in the Western Isles since 1945.

Abdul Ghaffar, who owns a shop on the Isle of Harris, said in the 1980s and 90s the community grew to as many as 80 people, before numbers dwindled to about 25 members.

He said: "Then about two years ago Syrian families settled in Lewis and that has more than doubled the community. There is definitely a need for the centre.

"People are able to pray at home, but have not been able to gather as a congregation or for festivals.

"Because the festivals fall on different dates it makes it difficult to book a hall or community centre in advance.

"There have been times that we have not been able to gather together at a community centre until after the date of the festival."

image captionWork is under way on the mosque in Stornoway

Mr Ghaffar said the Muslim and Christian communities on the islands "run in a parallel course" due to both having strong traditional values.

Free Church of Scotland minister, the Reverend James Maciver, said: "I think that whatever religion one belongs to it is right a facility is given to them as a civil liberties issue, a building in they they can meet."

Western Isles Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, gave consent for the mosque on the James Street site in 2013, before the new application for planning permission was submitted in 2017 and approved.

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